Minus The Bear/Onalaska Highly Refined Pirates/To Sing For Nights

Sharing members between the two bands, Minus the Bear and Onalaska couldn't be more different. Minus the Bear offer up attractive, melody-based indie rock that falls in the same vein as other North American bands like Hot Hot Heat, Death Cab For Cutie, the Appleseed Cast and the more lucid moments of Modest Mouse. They have a brilliant knack for naming songs too. Songs like "Thanks For The Killer Game Of Crisco(r) Twister," "Absinthe Party At The Fly Honey Warehouse," "Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!" and "I Lost All My Money At The Cock Fights," all sound nice to say, but they're actually quite nice to hear as well. The five-piece really comes together as a whole, punching out tight, rich guitar riffs along with some inspirational drumming and very crafty use of synths to make a near jazz-based structure of sound. Onalaska, on the other hand, write simple songs using a minimal sound. While at times there may be up to six people playing, the band sounds rather empty and cut off. Maybe it's the down effects of the whiskey they seem to favour, but their take on abandoned, country-twanging indie rock falls a little short. Game, set and match goes to Minus the Bear. (Suicide Squeeze)